When you set out to find a traditional publisher for your manuscript (MS), you know it will take a lot of time. You probably know that an agent can help you, or you may have already tried to find one, or you may have decided at the outset to submit to publishers without an agent.
Of course, your best possible chance of landing a good publishing deal—or finding a traditional publisher at all—is to have a publisher in your family, or one that owes you a big favor or lots of money. It is also useful if you are already well known to the general public, maybe as an entertainer, or a politician, or a master criminal (or all three). If your name is familiar, agents will be anxious to represent you and big publishing houses will be interested even if your manuscript needs a lot of editing—normally a service no longer offered by publishers today. Your name alone will sell a lot of books and that is what agents and publishers want.
If, unfortunately, you are one of the many faceless, unknown writers looking for an agent and/or a traditional publisher, you will have a tough time finding either, and it is important not to give up before exploring all the avenues available to you. Prepare to slog through the process just like the rest of us.
Why Try to Find a Traditional Publisher?
Writers who search for a traditional publisher want an expert to guide them through the final editing, select the best format and cover choices, arrange the printing, distribution, and the technical requirements (ISBN and copyright registration), and to oversee the marketing, too.
Often what separates the writer who chooses the traditional route from the writer who self-publishes—not by choice but in desperation—is simply the willingness to spend the necessary time, along with patience and flexibility. For example, if you have been trying and failing to find an agent to represent you, perhaps you should stop looking for an agent and start looking for a publisher instead.
In any case, expect the process to take a long time, and frequently re-examine what you are doing, what you have written, how you are presenting yourself, and be ready to make changes. You may decide that you need to re-edit your book, take a different approach with your query letter, write a new summary of your story, or maybe do all three.
Why Try to Find an Agent?
Ideally, an agent will read your query letter, your synopsis, and the first few pages of your MS, and will like your work. If so, you will be asked to send the entire MS, the agent will decide if it’s good enough to interest a publisher, and will agree to represent you. If the agent isn’t interested, you may or may not be notified. Don’t wait too long before trying elsewhere and, remember, you can submit to several agents or agencies at the same time.
The biggest advantage of having an agent is that it opens many more publishing doors for you. Most of the big publishing houses won’t read any MS that comes to them unrepresented by an agent, and you have a much narrower field if you are trying to find a publisher without one.
The major problem is that it’s as difficult to find an agent as it is to find a publisher but, if you find one, you can be busy writing your next book while your agent does all the leg work by choosing the most likely publishers and e-mailing them a good sales pitch.
Why Try to Find a Publisher Without an Agent?
You can cut your search time for a traditional publisher if you bypass the search for an agent. Even though there is no point in submitting your MS to one of the major publishing houses without one, there are many small publishers who will be happy to look at your work.
Small publishing houses will give you more personal attention and will work very hard on your behalf because they invest in fewer authors. They will really want you to succeed and, remember, you won’t have to share your royalties with an agent!
Whichever route you choose, prepare for rejection and prepare to spend a lot of time searching. As well, plan to re-evaluate your MS and the material that accompanies it now and then, and rewrite anything that can be improved.
The time you spend on the search is worth it. Finding a traditional publisher is a stamp of professional approval on your writing that everyone reconizes, and you can’t beat that.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Maureen Grenier and a clickable link back to this page. Was this information useful to you? If so, please like and share it. Watch for my new murder mystery, Murder On A Monday, published by High Tide Publications, Inc., coming soon.